Prison Radio
Sergio Hyland

Sup everybody, this is Uptown Serg, and this piece is called “Why Prison Radio.” As prisoners approach a full year [inaudible] on an enhanced lockdown, we still find it difficult to galvanize enough public support to make critical and necessary changes to PADO policy. This lockdown has put the prison system’s unwritten policy of inhumanity in full display, once again proving that the true purpose of prison is to torture human beings.

People often ask me why I choose to use Prison Radio to voice my concerns. It’s a legitimate question. After all, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has a grievance system, and if that doesn’t work, prisoners have the ability to challenge our conditions in court.

The problem with these processes is that they don’t work. They all smoke and mirrors: simple measures of reform put in place to keep prisoners in a disadvantaged position. Therefore, when it comes to prisoner’s rights, our only real hope is for public involvement.

However, prison officials have always countered our claims of abuse with their own claims of self-righteousness. They claimed that we’re just a bunch of unhappy convicted criminals who don’t like following the rules, and because the public is conditioned to believe so-called law enforcement, these false statements of prison officials are rarely challenged.

The mainstream media, whose job it is to report facts, seem to be noticeably quiet on the topic of human rights abuses in prison. On the rare occasion that they do report on prison issues, it’s because the violation is so egregious that it can’t be ignored.

Let’s face it: the sad reality is that society is seasoned to think of prisoners as little more than liars and complainers. This is why Prison Radio is so important and necessary.

It’s an on-the-record, first-hand account of what’s taking place on the inside of prisons. And if you do a thorough investigation of the claims made by prisoners on Prison Radio, you will undoubtedly see that these claims are not lacking in validity as prison officials and their co-conspirators in the mainstream media would like to believe.

For example, since this pandemic has began, prisoners have been attempting to expose the negligence and dangerous measures being implemented by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, specifically John Wessel and his team of cover-up artists.

Journalists on the inside have greatly reported on the increasing number of COVID-19 infections and deaths. However, those reports have been consistently attacked and denied by DOC officials. Time and again, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has directed their spokespersons to feed knowingly false information to the public.

A recent report by Spotlight PA has exposed how John Wessel and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has been manipulating the numbers of prisoner infections and deaths. When confronted by the report, Wessel accepted responsibility but still blamed others.

This report noted that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has been double counting tests, giving the appearance that widespread testing is taking place on the inside of Pennsylvania prisons. The report also exposes how deaths among prisoners and staff are often documented but later removed, causing some to wonder if there’s really something to hide.

Of course, these curious maneuvers aren’t so curious to prisoners and our supporters and loved ones. The Human Rights Coalition, the Coalition Against Death by Incarceration, Decarcerate Pennsylvania and other organizations have been making these claims from the very beginning, and no public outcry followed.

This report underscores the urgent need to release vulnerable prisoners. Some critics claim that, even in the midst of a deadly pandemic, prisoners are among society’s safest demographic. Spotlight PA’s and the Pennsylvania DOC’s own reporting says otherwise. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has reported over 13,000 positive cases of COVID-19 within its 24 state prisons with a population of only about 45,000 prisoners.

The infection rate is a staggering 30%, clearly confuting any bizarre claims that a prison environment is safer than a home environment. This issue doesn’t only affect prisoners. Staff too are growing wary of John Wessel and his mishandling of this crisis.

At this point, I must ask the question: if the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections would so blatantly lie about the handling of COVID-19, can you imagine what else they lie about due to their audacious presumption that the public will accept whatever they say?

This, fellow listeners, is why Prison Radio is as vital to society as the oxygen one needs to breathe. The hard truth is that prisoners have no real recourse. When violated, our best and only option is to report that violation to the violator and hope that he or she holds themselves accountable: a dream scenario which has never once happened in the history of relationships between the oppressor and the oppressed.

I strongly encourage all of you that urge your family and friends to tune into Prison Radio more regularly so that they can listen to journalists on the inside give true [inaudible] accounts of what we’re up against.

This is our version of the mainstream media. This is who we trust to represent the real concerns of people on the inside of prisons. You don’t have to take my word for anything: do your own research. But in your journey to find the truth, if your moral conscience tells you that everything you thought you knew was wrong, I hope that you find the courage and fortitude to then do what is right.

Thank you for listening. I’m Uptown Serg. You could follow me on Instagram @uptownserg.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.